How to Get Published Class Notes

Park bench in Yellow Springs

Instructor: Mark Zeid; email—;


Lesson 1

Difference between pride and arrogance, confidence and conceit

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is your class. Let me know what you want to learn of do. I can easily change and modify the lessons.

 Reasons for poor writing




Layout (e.g. font: Times New Roman; font size: 12; typing errors)


Books for editing



Grammar textbook

Style book

Writer’s Market

***Two important things to remember about writing: Remember your audience and remember why you are writing the document.

For example, why are you writing about a problem with an appliance? Is it to notify readers of an issue, to present a solution, or to just vent?

***In business, it’s always better to present a problem when you have a possible solution.

Zeids Rules

These are simply rules I have made up based on my experience in the business world. I present these rules as advice or good practices in the world of business communication. There is no particular order or rank of importance because these are tailored to the situation. I do hope you find them useful.

Never reply when angry – we often get email messages or memos from others that upset us. There is nothing wrong with writing out a reply expressing your anger, but do it on a word document, then destroy it. Don’t vent in business communications. Take a day or two to calm down before replying.

Always be professional – no profanity – the use of profanity and insults really have no place in business communications. Arguments backed by logic and facts carry much greater weight. Also, the use of profanity and insults loses you creditability, regardless of how right you are.

One plus three read your message – whenever you write a letter or email message, realize that many others, in addition to the person you send it to, will read the message. Think of every message going to one person who will show it at least three other people. This will make you think carefully how you are wording the message.

Think twice about emojis – these aren’t professional. Remember, others are going to read the message. Do you want them to see your emojis?

Follow up and respond – what’s the status – when someone sends you a message, especially if that person has asked you to do something, let him or her know you got the message and what action you are taking. People are a lot more understanding if they know you are taking care of them.

Don’t sound psycho – too many people rant, especially on social media, or they make a statement without explaining what they mean. Think before writing and make sure your statements make sense, especially to those who are not familiar with the issue

Read the whole email chain, but don’t resend the chain if it isn’t necessary – read the entire email chain instead of just the last entry. Often the questions you have are already answered. If this email chain is on a social media bulletin board, don’t resend the entire chain with lots of comments unless it is necessary. Usually, it is not.

Don’t’ forget attribution – if you are telling me something, especially some fact, let me know where you got that information. Knowing the source of the information helps me evaluate what is written. A lack of attribution hurts your creditability.

During disasters – use texting and instant messaging instead of calling people on the phone. During disasters, phone lines, including cell towers, are overwhelmed. You probably won’t get through. However, text message take less energy and usually do get through.

Let the phone ring – while just about everyone has a cell phone, not everyone is carrying it when you call. Many people have it in a purse or backpack or in their pocket. Sometimes it’s in another room. Let the phone ring at least six times before hanging up. Letting it ring twice and then hanging up is just rude.

Speak slowly and clearly when leaving a message – if you leave a message on voice mail, think about the person on the other end. Give that individual the opportunity to write down your name and phone number, especially if the person doesn’t know you.

Always send a cover letter – never send forms, data, etc. without explaining what the person is supposed to do with them. And always mention all enclosures in the message part of the cover letter.

Establish press connections before it is necessary – it is better to have a working relationship with the press before an incident. If you have this relationship, things will go much smoother when an incident happens.

Always start a conversation with a greeting – People do not hear the first syllable of the first word said. Therefore it is best to start a conversation with a greeting such as “Good morning” or “Can you help me?”

**Be a broken record when dealing with the press – if anyone from the press or news media contacts you, that person should be referred to the public relations office. No matter what the reporter asks, give him or her the same answer – They should call the public relations office.

Get briefed before going to the field if press has direct contact with you. Many times you will be in a situation where you will have direct contact with the news media. Your public relations office should brief you beforehand on what you can say and what you can’t say. If you are in doubt, refer the press to the public relations office.

Send out more than one press release. A single press release can get lost in the mail, put aside on an editor’s desk, or forgotten. Always send out more than one press release for any event. If more than one organization is involved, then each organization should send out press releases.

If it is a negative situation, don’t be afraid to make a press release, but get it cleared first as to not compromise any investigation. Make sure of your facts, but do issue a press release. Make sure to clear it with the legal department and others before making it. Failure to make a statement, or being evasive, will only make things worse.

Do not respond to accuser’s attack or comments. They are designed to aggravate the situation. Many times there are people who want to aggravate the situation (such as protesters), and sometimes the media, who make comments designed to make you or organization look bad to the press. Don’t respond to these attacks or comments. Your public relations office should handle these people.

Forget the rule of limiting resumes to one page when posting on a website. The one-page resume rule was made when we had a hundred of them printed up and gave or mailed them to employers. Now, most job applications are online and they demand a much more comprehensive description of your experience. However, having a one-page resume to give out to others when networking (letting others know you’re looking for a job) is a good idea.

Use numbers when writing a resume – tell them how many people you supervised, how much money you saved or raised, how many projects or reports you did. Numbers impress people and give them a better idea of what you accomplished.

Use bullets – five to seven for each job. Most resumes are not read; they are quickly glanced at. Use bullets to describe what you did. It is easier to read and more noticeable.

Use the language in the job description when applying for a job. When applying for a job, use the language the company used to describe the job in your resume. This is especially useful when applying online because many companies screen resumes by looking for specific words, usually the ones they used to describe the job.

Don’t lie on resumes – you can brag, but don’t lie. This is especially true for job experience and education. These lies can be grounds for firing you.

Once you lose credibility, you will never get it back. If you lie, if you take credit for someone else’s work, if you resort to insults and profanity; you lose creditability. Once it’s gone, you will never regain it.

Remember your audience – every letter, email message, report, etc. is written not for you, but for your audience. The goal of communication is to get your message to the audience, not to boost your ego.

Avoid using acronyms – the use of acronyms often creates a barrier between you and your audience. If your audience doesn’t know what the acronym means, then they see you as being arrogant and condescending. They stop trying to understand your message. This means you have wasted your time because they aren’t listening.

Ten Keys to Writing Success

A report by Mark Zeid on a presentation by Chuck Sambuchino

  1. Always write the best thing you can.
  2. Know what you are getting into before getting into it.
  3. Build your writer’s platform.
  4. Keep moving forward and don’t let rejections stop you.
  5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
  6. Write for love and write for money.
  7. Don’t believe everything you hear.
  8. Don’t let agents reject your manuscript for the following two reasons. The first reason is nothing happens on the first page. The second reason is too much information too soon.
  9. Steal from yourself.
  10. Put down the TV remote.

Every writer wants to know the key to becoming a success. At a writers’ conference in Atlanta, Georgia, Chuck Sambuchino, a writer for Writers Digest, gave us a list of his ten keys to becoming a writing success.

First, always write the best thing you can. His point being many writers become impatient and grow tired of a project, so they hurry to finish and send it off. Sambuchino’s suggestion is instead, put the project aside, work on something else, and return to the project after taking a break from it. One issue with this is “What if I have a deadline?” I wrote many articles for magazines, and they always had deadlines. What I noticed was good writers gave themselves enough time to write, set the article aside for a few days, and return to it before the deadline.

Second, know what you are getting into before getting into it. It’s important to know the issues, problems, and process of traditional publishing versus self-publishing. This applies to any writing project. For example, if you want to submit a short story with a Christmas theme, you need to realize the story will be edited and printed in a publication months before Christmas. The vetting process for the story to reach the editor will be months before that. The best time to send in the story is not in November, but in the spring.

The third point is build your writer’s platform.  (Focus on building a support network of people to help you with proofreading and editing.) The goal is to get as many people as possible to know who you are. Using social media is now becoming a must for any writer. Also, membership in professional, social, and veteran organizations is encouraged. It is important to remember membership is not enough. You need to be active and get your name out there. One reason famous people have best sellers is because the public recognizes the name. The more people know who you are, the better luck you will have in selling you writing. A personal example is my wife, who got commissioned to write a language textbook because of her social platform. ** Hint—ask friends on Facebook to repost anything you post about your writing accomplishments and join groups to get your name out there.

For his fourth point, he stressed to keep moving forward and don’t let rejections stop you.  (Constructive criticism is useful. Still look for people who will give you the tools and support you need to complete your project.) I have written hundreds of articles and I still get rejections. There are many reasons why a publisher or editor will not accept your project. You can’t let it stop you from writing. Sambuchino recommended joining a writers’ critique group. This will not only help you improve your writing, but also give you encouragement and motivation to continue writing.

The fifth point was don’t put all your eggs in one basket. His advice here was to keep writing and don’t limit yourself to just one project. He is not suggesting jumping from one project to another without completing any of them. The idea is not to put all of one’s energy and resources into a single project. Write articles, short stories, letters, novels, etc. Often a writer will have limited success with one project, but great success with others. For me, I had hundreds of articles published, before I got a novel published. While working on my novels, I continued to write articles and get published.

For his sixth point, Sambuchino says write for love and write for money. There is nothing wrong with writing for money to cover living expenses while writing things you enjoy. I work for the government writing technical documents. It’s a job. I don’t hate it, but it’s not my life’s dream either. I write these technical manuals to pay the rent while working on my novels.

The seventh point is don’t believe everything you hear. The main point here is to educate yourself about the industry. Go to conferences, talk to agents and editors, try things yourself, talk to other writers, and read books and articles about the industry. Learn things yourself instead of relying on second-hand information. It is important to note that other writers’ experiences may provide you with ideas and encouragement; not every book follows the same path. For example, my wife wrote and got a textbook published. She did free-lance work as a translator which led to her being commissioned by a publisher to write a language textbook within 90 days. This is extremely unusual, but it proves the point that everyone’s experience is unique.

Point number eight is don’t let agents reject your manuscript for the following two reasons.  (Find out what the boss wants.) The first reason is nothing happens on the first page. It’s not compelling; there is no desire to keep reading. The first page should introduce one of the following: tension, a problem, conflict, or trouble. Make the reader curious as to what is happening. The second reason is too much information too soon. Too often writers tell the back story or describe the characters in detail. A good way to avoid this is to tell the back story in dialogue later in the story and limit any description of a character to a single sentence. One article I wrote was about a chemical substance that changes from a solid to a kind of goo, which can help keep buildings cool or warm. Starting with that kind of sentence is boring. Instead, I started with, “An ice cube may hold the answer to heating your home.” It seemed strange and therefore encouraged people to read the entire article.

For Sambuchino’s ninth point, he recommends stealing from yourself. Many times, you write something great for one story, but the story itself doesn’t work. However, that passage will work great in another story. Many writers will write short passages, even though they don’t have a complete story; but later will find a place to use the material. I write lots of letters, and often an incident I wrote about in a letter can be used in one of my novels.

The last and most important point is quite simple. Put down the TV remote. In short, make time for writing. Every successful writer makes time for his or her writing. Hemingway, who spent a lot of time on his hobbies and drinking, made it a point to write every morning from seven to noon. While it was just five hours a day, it was time when he focused on writing. Sambuchino quoted Michael Jordan who said, “If you put in the hours, the results will come.” From personal experience I know finding time to write when you work full time is difficult. I spend an hour each day, during lunch, working on my novels. I may write only 600 or 700 words, but I am writing, and by the end of a week, I have written at least 3,000 words. That’s a good chunk of writing.

In short, there is no magic trick or shortcut that will make you a success. It takes work and dedication, but the rewards are worth it. Ask any writer and that person will tell you there is a great deal of satisfaction and pride when you see your name in print as the author, regardless of the number of copies sold.


Read authors you like and notice what you like about their books. When you read a bad book, take note of what you don’t like and why. Learn from bad writing.


What are the eight parts of speech?

What are the six wh questions?

What problems do you have with your writing?


What are the eight parts of speech?

Noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, conjunction, preposition, interjection

What are the six wh questions?

Who, what, when, where, why, and how

What problems do you have with your writing?

Reading over my mistakes


Words that don’t exist


The correct term is “regardless” meaning without paying attention to the situation.

Incorrect: Irregardless of who pays, I’m not going.

Correct: Regardless of who pays, I’m not going.


The correct spelling is “all right.”

Incorrect: It’s alright if you’re late.

Correct: It’s all right if you’re late.


It is not “alot” but “a lot”

Incorrect: There is alot of bananas in the bowl.

Correct: There is a lot of bananas in the bowl.

Correct: There are lots of bananas in the bowl.

***based off

The correct phrase is “based on” not “based off.” Remember things with a base are on the base

Incorrect: Based off the weather report, our picnic is canceled.

Correct: Based on the weather report, our picnic is canceled.


The word “nother” is a dialect of the word “another.” In writing, use the proper form.

Incorrect: I want nother piece of pie.

Correct: I want another piece of pie.

The wrong word

***its vs. it’s

The word “it’s” is a contraction of “it is.” The word “its” shows possession.

It’s the cat’s dinner.

Give the cat its dinner.

***to vs. too vs two

The word “to” is a preposition indicating movement or action, while “too” is a synonym for also or an adverb meaning more than desired. The word “two” is a number.

I’m going to the bank.

I’m going there too.

I need to make two stops before then.

***there vs. their vs. they’re

Their is a possessive adjective meaning people own something.

They’re is a contraction for they are.

There is an adverb indicating a specific place or position.

There is the school my two boys go to.

They’re going to school five days a week.

They ride their bicycles to school.

***your vs. you’re

The word “you’re” is a contraction of you are, while “your” is a possessive pronoun.

I hope you’re going to the banquet.

Is that your coat and hat.

***then vs. than

Than is used to compare two things, while then refers to when an action takes place.

This hotel is more expensive than that hotel.

I went to the hotel, then I went to the banquet.

***insure vs. ensure vs. assure

To assure is to promise or say something with confidence.

To ensure is to make certain.

To insure is to protect against risk by paying an insurance company.

I can assure you the job will be done by Friday.

Please ensure there are enough books for the class.

I need to insure the new car.

***desert and dessert

People often confuse desert, the sandy place, and dessert, the sweet treat. Desert can also mean abandon, such as a deserted town.

Common writing mistakes

***Several years ago, I came across this webpage on the internet. I don’t remember where, but I do know these are common mistakes many writers make.

For all intents and purposes, not for all intensive purposes

A dog eat dog world, not a doggy dog world

All in all, not All and all

Day and age, not day in age

Buck naked, not butt naked 

All for naught, not all for not

A whole different story, or another story, not a whole nother story

Ad nauseum, not At nauseum

Etcetera, not excetera

Safe deposit box, not safety deposit box

Supposedly, not supposably 

Undoubtedly or indubitably, not undoubtable

Should have, not should of

Entitled not intitled or titled – one inherently deserving of special treatment.

Infamous – famous for a negative reason, for doing bad things. George Washington was famous. Bonnie and Clyde were infamous.

Common misuse of vocabulary

***I am always on the lookout for articles about improving a person’s writing and communication ability. Below is a website where I found one such article. I’ve added a few additional comments and edited some of the entries.

Abstain and In Absentia

People often confuse abstain, which means to not do something, with in absentia, which means not present. They often end up combining the two to write abstentia, which is a non-existent word.

Adverse and Averse

Averse means dislike or opposed to. Add a “d” and you get adverse, which means harmful, which is a reason to be opposed to something. People should be averse to the possible adverse effects of using the wrong spelling.

Advice and Advise

These words are often confused, but the difference is simple: advise is a verb and advice is a noun. I’d advise you to make note of this advice.

Affect and Effect

The difference between these two words is a simple matter of cause and effect. Affect is usually a verb, and it means to impact or change, and the effect is the result.

Allusion and Illusion

An allusion is a reference; an illusion is something imagined or deceptive.

Amused and Bemused

Bemused originally meant bewildered or confused, but not in an amusing sense. Bemused, however, sounds so much like amused and has been used mistakenly as a synonym so often that some dictionaries have come to accept this additional meaning.

Aural and Oral

These two have related meanings: aural refers to the ear or hearing, and oral to the mouth or speaking.

Baited and Bated

“With bated breath” means nervously or anxiously; bated is hardly ever used in any other context, and people often wrongly spell it with an “i.” Baited is the past principle of bait, which means to tease or put a trap.

Bear and Bare

Although they are short and simple words, they mean very different things — and each has more than one meaning. Bear can mean carry or endure, bear with someone, or even give birth. It’s also a furry animal. As an adjective, bare can mean uncovered or simple; as a verb it means to expose.

Bazaar and Bizarre

A bazaar is a market. A bizarre bazaar is a strange market indeed.

Berth and Birth

A berth is where a ship moors or a passenger sleeps. Birth can be used as a noun, adjective, and verb in relation to having offspring.

Biannual and Biennial

Biannual means twice a year, while biennial means every two years.

Bloc and Block

Bloc means a group of nations or people united by a common interest. Block has a number of meanings, including prevent, as in block a bloc from working together.

Canvas and Canvass

Canvas is something you paint on or sleep under. To canvass means to solicit votes or support. One “s” makes all the difference.

Capitol and Capital

Capitol refers to a building, specifically, the building where legislators meet. The term ‘Capitol Hill’ refers not to that Washington DC is the capital of our nation, but to the neighborhood that houses the building where Congress meets. Capital is pretty much every other use. It refers to the most important city or the governmental seat of a country, county, state, or other region. It refers to an upper-case letter. And it refers to investment funds.

Censor and Censure

Censor means to remove or suppress content, while censure means to criticize.

Compliment and Complement

Compliment is a verb and noun meaning praise. Complement means goes well with. “My compliments to the chef. The eggs complement the bacon.”

Comprise and Compose

These two words have different meanings depending on whether you are talking about the whole or the parts: “The pizza is composed of dough and cheese and comprises eight slices.” (Some people say “comprised of,” although the “of” is redundant.)

Continuous and Continual

Continuous refers to something that has no end, which is to say that if something continues ad infinitum, it is continuous. Continual refers to something that stops and starts. If you’re on a continuous search for connection, you might be lonely. If your search for connection is continual, then you might be a serial dater.

Council and Counsel

Counsel means advice or the person giving it, whereas a council is a group of people that advises or decides on different matters.

Criteria and Criterion

The difference is simple — criteria is the plural of criterion, although the singular is falling out of use in everyday English.

Discreet and Discrete

Discreet means unobtrusive, low key, whereas discrete means separate, individual. You can have discreet and discrete conversations.

Elicit and Illicit

Elicit means to draw out or evoke. You wouldn’t elicit praise for something that was illicit, however, as that means illegal or unapproved.

Evoke and Invoke

To evoke means to summon or call to mind, while to invoke means to call upon, as in, to invoke a rule of law.

Disinterested and Uninterested

Disinterested means neutral or not having a stake in the outcome, whereas uninterested means you just don’t care.

Faint and Feint

As a verb, to faint means to pass out, while to feint means to fake something, such as an attack. As an adjective, faint means slight or imperceptible.

Fewer and Less

Fewer should be used for things that can be counted, while less should be used for things that can’t be counted or don’t have a plural. Fewer grammar mistakes mean less embarrassment.

Flaunt and Flout

To flaunt means to show off, whereas to flout means to openly disregard a rule. You could flout convention by flaunting your wealth.

Flounder and Founder

To flounder means to struggle whereas to founder means to sink. Of course, flounder is also a fish, and they’re pretty good swimmers, so that might help you remember the distinction between the two. However, founder can also mean someone who builds something up, which is almost the opposite of to sink.

Forbear and Forebear

Forbear is a verb meaning to refrain from something. Forebear is a noun meaning ancestor. You wouldn’t be reading this if your forebears had decided to forbear.

Infer and Imply

To infer means to draw a conclusion, while to imply means to suggest something. Put simply, infer relates to getting information and drawing a conclusion from it, while implying is suggesting information..

Learn and Teach

People sometimes confuse learn and teach. Teachers teach, students learn.


Literally literally means actually, but people often use it when they mean figuratively, which is something entirely different. We’ve all heard statements like, “I literally laughed my head off,” or “I literally died with embarrassment.” These are incorrect.

Moral and Morale

A moral is a lesson you draw from something. Morals are your standards or ethics. Morale is your mental or emotional state. It’s probably good for your morale to be a moral person.

Peak and Peek and Pique

A peak is the top of something, such as a mountain. To peek means to look briefly or glance at. Pique can mean to stimulate interest, but it can also mean to upset somebody. We hope we have piqued your interest and not piqued you.

Perpetrate and Perpetuate

Perpetrate means to commit or carry out something, such as a crime. Perpetuate means to prolong the existence of, possibly forever.

Pored and Poured

To pore means to read or focus on something carefully. I could pour you a drink while you pore over this.

Premier and Premiere

As an adjective, premier means first or most prominent. As a noun, it can be a synonym for prime minister. A premiere is the first time a movie or play is shown. A premier could attend a premiere.

Prescribe and Proscribe

These look-alike words can have opposite meanings. To prescribe means to order or recommend something, as doctors might do. To proscribe means to forbid something, as dictators might do.

Principle and Principal

A principle is a fundamental idea or rule, such as a principle of justice. Principal as an adjective means the most important as in, the principal principle. Principal as a noun means the head of an organization or institution, such as a company or school. The principal should be principled.

Rain and Rein and Reign

Rain falls from the sky; a rein is used to control a horse; and a monarch reigns over a country.

Sank and Sunk

Sank is the past tense of sink, as in the ship sank, while sunk is the past participle, as in the ship has sunk.

Stationary and Stationery

Stationary means standing still, while stationery relates to paper and other office supplies.

Systematic and Systemic

Systematic relates to the process or procedure by which something happens, while systemic means ingrained in the system.


People often say “very unique,” but strictly speaking nothing is very unique. Something is either unique, which means one of a kind, or not — there aren’t degrees of uniqueness.

Poisonous versus Venomous
Poisonous refers to something that is toxic if you eat or drink it. Venomous describes something that is poisonous if it bites you. Snakes can be venomous; they cannot be poisonous.

Infer versus Imply. Infer is on the part of the listener. Imply is on the part of the speaker.

Between versus Among. Between deals with two people or things. Among deals with three or more people or things.

Lay versus Lie
A person does not lay down. A person may lay down a thing. You lay down your book. You lay down the law. Hens lay eggs. If you’re talking about a person lying down in the past tense, then the past tense is lay. If you’re talking about what you did last night, then you laid down. This is not to be confused with the past tense of the word ‘lie,’ when used to refer to a non-truth, in which case the past tense is ‘lied’ as in, ‘He told a lie. Therefore, he lied.’

Sit versus Set
If you’re talking about plunking your bottom in a chair, you want to use the word ‘sit.’ If you’re talking about placing an object, it’s ‘set.’

Shone versus Shown
Shown is the past participle of the word ‘show,’ which is a verb meaning to ‘exhibit’ or ‘present.’ Shone is the past and past participle of the word ‘shine,’ which is a verb meaning ‘to emit light.’

Shone versus Shined
If ‘shone’ is the past tense of ‘shined,’ then why doesn’t anyone say ‘I had my shoes shone yesterday’? The answer is that in modern writing, it’s considered archaic (and therefore, wrong) to use the word ‘shone’ to refer to having shined anything so mundane as shoes, silverware, or windows. That said, it’s perfectly acceptable in modern writing to say that after you shined your shoes, your silverware, or your windows, they shone brightly.

Emigrate versus Immigrate
When you leave your country to permanently live in another, you emigrate. When you arrive in another country to live permanently, you immigrate.

Elicit versus Illicit
Elicit means to draw forth or to coax out. Illicit means improper. To remember which is which, think of the ‘e’ in ‘elicit’ as standing for the ‘e’ in ‘exit.’ If you think there’s something exciting about things that are illicit, consider that ‘illicit’ contains the root, ill.

Continuous versus Continual
Continuous refers to something that has no end, which is to say that if something continues ad infinitum, it is continuous. Continual refers to something that stops and starts. If you’re on a continuous search for connection, you might be lonely. If your search for connection is continual, then you might be a serial dater.

Further versus Farther
Farther refers to actual physical distance, a literal distance, as in ‘My car’s making a funny noise. How much farther is it to the service station?’ Further refers to a figurative distance, as in ‘How much further can this car go before I have to sell it for scrap metal?’

Bring versus Take
You bring things here. You take them there.

Home and Hone
Hone is always a verb. It means to sharpen or make more acute. For example, you can ‘hone’ a skill. Home is a noun also used sometimes as a verb to mean to move in toward a destination or target with accuracy. For example, you can ‘home in on that delicious smell and realize it’s freshly baked cookies.’  Although you might think that you can ‘hone in’ on a target, the proper word is ‘home.’ Remember if you need to add ‘in’ or ‘in on’ after the verb, you probably should be using ‘home.’ If not, then it’s ‘hone.’

Fleshing out versus Flushing out
If you’re talking about adding substance to something, like writing an article you’ve merely outlined, then it’s ‘fleshing out,’ as in adding flesh to bones. If you’re talking about finding something that’s not easily visible, then it’s ‘flushing out’ as in ‘flushing out the enemy.’

Viable versus Feasible
Viable and feasible are often, albeit incorrectly, used interchangeably. However, viable refers to whether something is capable of surviving. Feasible refers to whether an action is possible. Accordingly, a viable candidate must have a feasible plan.

Perquisite versus Prerequisite
Perquisite usually means an extra allowance or privilege. Prerequisite means something that’s required. To remember the difference, think of the film titled The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The ‘perks’ in the title are short for ‘perquisites.’

Pored versus Poured
When you’re talking about studying something intently, use ‘pored,’ as opposed to ‘poured.’ Pouring refers to what you do with a liquid. To help you remember, think of the pores of your skin. To see them, you must ‘pore’ over your face in the mirror.

Regretful versus Regrettable
Regretful means filled with regret. Regrettable means deplorable or unfortunate. Accordingly, one would be regretful over one’s regrettable actions.

Reluctant versus Reticent
These two words have to do with being less than willing to do something. However, reluctant describes unwillingness in general, whereas reticent is used only in reference to speaking. When one is reticent, it means he is reluctant to share his thoughts.

Sensual versus Sensuous
Both words refer to the senses. Sensuous refers to things that relate to the senses or even appeal to the senses. For example, a hand cream can be described as sensuous. Sensual also refers to things that appeal to the senses, but the connotation is erotic. For example, the way one applies their hand cream may be sensual. If you want to describe the lines of a painting, you might use the word ‘sensuous.’ To remember the difference, think of the word ‘sexual,’ which is more similar in spelling to ‘sensual’ than ‘sensuous.’

Appraise versus Apprise
To appraise is to assess the value of something. The word appraise is often used in connection with real estate sales. To apprise is to teach or inform. We at Reader’s Digest always seek to apprise you of what you want and need to know.

Assent versus Ascent
To assent is a verb that means to agree.
Ascent is a noun that refers to a climb, as in ‘the first ascent of Mt. Everest,’ or a liftoff, as in ‘the ascent of the balloon.’

Canvas versus Canvass
Canvas is a type of fabric that tends to be tough and strong.
Canvass is a verb that means to try to ascertain people’s opinions.

Illusion versus Allusion
An illusion is a misleading image or impression, such as an optical illusion. An allusion is a reference to something else, such as a literary allusion.

Defuse versus Diffuse
Defuse is a verb that means to render a bomb non-explosive (by removing the fuse, or otherwise). It can also refer to rendering a situation less dangerous. Diffuse is a verb that means to disperse over a wide area. Diffuse can also be used as an adjective that describes something that is not concentrated (in other words, something that might have been diffused). In the latter case, the word is pronounced with a soft s-sound, like the word ‘so,’ as opposed to a hard s-sound like the word ‘use’

Disassemble versus Dissemble
Disassemble is a verb that means to take something apart. Dissemble is a verb that means to lie.

Disburse versus Disperse
Both disburse and disperse are verbs that involve distributing things. But: disburse means to give or hand over money or funds. Disperse is a verb that means to scatter, and it has nothing to do with money or funds.

Disinterested versus Uninterested
Being disinterested doesn’t mean you’re not interested in something, but rather that you have no bias about it (as in, no personal stake). By contrast, being uninterested means you’re not interested or intrigued by something. If you think your spouse has lost interest, then you’re worried he or she is uninterested (not disinterested).

Eminent versus Imminent
Eminent describes something or someone prominent. Imminent describes something that is about to happen.

Emoticon versus Emoji
Both emoticons and emojis are graphical expressions used in electronic communication. An emoticon is a typographic display intended to suggest a facial expression. For example, the emoticon for a winky-face is a semi-colon followed by a right-parenthesis. An emoji is an actual visual image, and it need not be of a face. Rather, it can be virtually anything.

Remodeling versus Renovating versus Restoring
Remodeling and restoring are terms of art to architects and interior designers, and they mean different things: Remodeling means changing the structure of a space. For example, if you build a second floor on a ranch house, you are remodeling it. Renovating refers to significantly changing a space without changing its structure. For example, if you remove your bathroom fixtures and replace them with new ones, you are renovating the bathroom. If you start moving walls or adding new windows, then you’re remodeling. Restoring means returning a space to its original character or use. For example, removing vinyl siding and repainting the original wood siding of a house is a restoration project.

…versus Refurbishing versus Redecorating
The term refurbishing is a form of renovating. It refers to rebuilding or replenishing with new material. You can refurbish your wood floors as part of a renovation project. Redecorating means changing the character or scheme of a space’s decor. Redecorating is the least structural of all of the aforementioned ‘R’ terms. You can redecorate by bringing in a new sofa or hanging new posters on the wall. Remodeling, renovating, restoring, and refurbishing can involve redecorating.

Judicial versus Judicious
Judicial means ‘connected with a court of law.’ Judicious means ‘wise.’ Here’s a way to remember the difference: Not all judicial decisions are judicious.

Libel versus Slander
Both libel and slander are forms of defamation, which is the making of a statement about someone that is both false and derogatory. Slander is any oral publication of a defamatory statement. Libel is a written publication of a defamatory statement.

Alibi versus Excuse
As a noun, ‘alibi’ refers to proof you were elsewhere when something happened. When someone provides an alibi for you, they are offering that proof. As a noun, ‘excuse’ refers to any explanation of your behavior, it being understood that by offering an excuse, you are essentially admitting to the behavior.

Patent versus Copyright versus Trademark
Created something you think is awesome and you want to make sure you get the credit? If it’s an original invention of some kind, then you’ll want to get a patent. If it’s something you wrote that expresses an idea in a unique way, such as a work of fiction, you’ll want to register the copyright. If it’s a slogan or logo that identifies a product, you’re talking about a trademark.

Nauseous versus Nauseated
Believe it or not, ‘nauseous’ actually doesn’t mean feeling sick to your stomach or afflicted by nausea—that’s nauseated. Technically speaking, every time you say ‘I’m nauseous,’ you’re saying that you cause or inflict nausea, as that’s the actual meaning of ‘nauseous.’ A way to use this word correctly would be, ‘I knew that the milk was rotten when I got a whiff of the nauseous smell coming from the carton.’ Smelling this nauseous rotten milk probably made you feel nauseated. ‘Nauseous’ has been used to mean ‘nauseated’ for so long, however, that many a dictionary editor has come to accept it as another meaning for the word.

Everyday versus Every Day
If you do something seven days a week, you do it every day. ‘Day’ is a noun, and ‘every’ is the adjective that modifies it—two different words. Meanwhile, everyday, as a single word, is an adjective that means commonplace or routine. So, no, you do not brush your teeth everyday. That just doesn’t make sense.

Chronic versus Severe
These two terms are easily confused because both describe extreme medical conditions—but they describe different kinds of medical conditions. Though both severe and chronic conditions are not contagious, ‘severe’ just refers to more extreme, painful versions of common maladies. Chronic conditions must last at least three months, and often last a person’s entire life. Diabetes, asthma, HIV, and cancer are chronic conditions.

Acute versus Severe

Most medical personnel view ‘acute’ as meaning sudden, possibly severe, and requiring immediate medical attention. For example a cut requiring stiches is acute. ‘Severe’ is used to describe to extreme and painful medical conditions which usually require treatment to either cure the malady or comfort the patient.


‘Magnanimous’ means noble of heart, forgiving, and at times generous. It does not mean large or big. ‘That is a magnanimous building’ is incorrect. It is a magnanimous gesture when someone poor donates all of his money to charity.


***Recently I came across two articles on common grammar mistakes. One was written by Morgan Greenwald for Best Life and a second one by Amanda Zantal-Wiener for HubSpot. Here are many of the mistakes they highlighted as well as a few I added.

Misplaced commas

One of the most common comma errors is a comma splice or using a comma to merge two complete clauses when there should be a semicolon or a period.

Incorrect: Beth ate dinner, later she saw a movie.

Correct: Beth ate dinner. Later she saw a movie.

“There’s” and “Here’s”

There’s and here’s are contractions of there is and here is; therefore they are used with singular nouns.

Incorrect: Here’s six new cars.

Correct: Here are six new cars.

Correct: Here’s a new car.

Shortening decades properly

The correct way to shorten decades is to place the apostrophe before the number, not afterwards.

Incorrect: I lived in Asia in the 90s.

Incorrect: I lived in Asia in the 90’s.

Correct: I lived in Asia in the ‘90s.

“That” vs. “Which”

If you can remove a clause from the sentence with changing the meaning of the sentence, then which is the word to use. If it changes the meaning of the sentence, then use that.

Incorrect: For classes which have a lab component, you must pay an extra fee.

Correct: For classes that have a lab component, you must pay an extra fee.

Incorrect: The blue pickup truck, that has automatic transmission, is a great deal.

Correct: The blue pickup truck, which has automatic transmission, is a great deal.

“Affect” vs. “Effect”

Affect is a verb and effect is a noun.

Incorrect: The affects of this new software effects the energy output of the electrical system.

Correct: The effects of the new software affects the energy output of the electrical system.

“Lie” vs. “Lay”

Lay requires a direct object while lie does not. An easy way to remember them: pLAce – because lay involves placing something, and recLIne – because lie involves reclining.

Incorrect: I will lie a pillow on the sofa so that I can lay on it.

Correct: I will lay a pillow on the sofa so that I can lie on it.

“Let’s” vs. “Lets”

Let’s is a contraction of let us, and used in commands and suggestions. Lets is the present tense of the verb let, meaning “to allow.”

Incorrect: If my boss let’s me take off work, lets go to the ball game.

Correct: If my boss lets me take off work, let’s go to the ball game.

“Fewer” vs. “Less”

Fewer is used when items can be counted, such as apples and books. Less is used with singular mass nouns, things that cannot be counted, such as hair and sugar. One easy way to remember is fewer is usually used with nouns that have a plural form by adding “s” or changing letters in the word.

Incorrect: Because I had fewer money, I bought less snacks for the trip.

Correct: Because I had less money, I bought fewer snacks for the trip.

“Many” vs. “Much”

The same rules apply to many and much as with fewer and less. Many is usually used with things that can be counted while much is usually used with thing that cannot be counted.

Incorrect: How many food does it take to feed that much dogs?

Correct: How much food does it take to feed that many dogs?

Add a comma after a state name

When writing the name of a city followed by the state, there should be a comma before and after the state name.

Incorrect: The city of Orlando, Florida has many tourist attractions.

Correct: The city of Orlando, Florida, has many tourist attractions.

“Since” vs. “Because”

Since has two meanings. One is it refers to the cause of an effect. The second is it refers to the time some action began. Because refers only to the cause of an effect or a reason for doing an action.

En Dashes vs. Em Dashes

The en dash “-“ or hyphen, has only two uses: to connect some compound words and to separate numbers. For other uses, such as a break in a sentence, use the em dash “—”.

Incorrect: I’ll mow the lawn today-if I can’t find the time, I’ll have my 12—year—old nephew do it.

Correct: I’ll mow the lawn today—if I can’t find the time, I’ll have my 12-year-old nephew do it.

Forgetting an Apostrophe

With an apostrophe, a noun becomes a possessive; but without one, it’s just a plural form of the noun.

Incorrect: This is Bobs book and that one is Shirleys.

Correct: This is Bob’s book and that one is Shirley’s.

i.e. vs. e.g.

These two abbreviations do not mean the same thing. First, “i.e.” means “that is” or “in other words.” But “e.g.” means “for example.”

Who vs. That

Who is for a person, and that is for a thing.

Incorrect: Bob is the person that sits at that desk.

Correct: Bob is the person who sits at that desk.

Who vs. Whom vs. Whose vs. Who’s

Who is a pronoun identifying a person.

Whom is also a pronoun identifying a person, but usually used with a preposition such as to or from.

Whose is used to assign ownership, as in whose is it.

Who’s is a contraction of who is.

Examples:  Who won the tennis match?

To whom do you want these flowers delivered?

Whose car is the blue one?

Who’s bringing the beer for the party?

Alot vs. A Lot vs. Allot

First, alot is not a word. If you wish to say many things or much of something, the words are a lot. The word allot means to set aside a certain amount of money.

Incorrect: We have alot of apples at home.

Correct: We have a lot of apples at home.

Correct: We will allot ourselves a $25.00 limit on gifts for the office.

Farther vs. Further

Farther is used when referring to physical distances, while further is used when referring to figurative or nonphysical distances.

Incorrect: Washington D.C. is further away from New York than Philadelphia.

Correct: Washington D.C. is farther away from New York than Philadelphia.

Incorrect: Have you made any farther progress towards your degree?

Correct: Have you made any further progress towards your degree?

NOTE: Further is preferred in British English in all cases.

Between vs. Among

The word between is used when referring to two things clearly separated, while the word among is used when referring things that part of a group or mass of objects.

Incorrect: You need to choose among the black cat or the orange one between all of the cats here.

Correct: You need to choose between the black cat or the orange one among all of the cats here.

*** Passive Voice and Three Cures  

You don’t have to be a grammarian to recognize passive voice.  First, find the verb by asking yourself, “What’s happening in this sentence?”  Then find the actor by asking, “Who’s doing it?”  If the actor comes after the verb, it’s passive voice. Look for the word “by” before the actor.  Also, watch for these forms of the verb to be (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) and a main verb usually ending in -ed or -en.  Let’s look at a few examples and then try the cures, below. NOTE: some languages and cultures, such as Japanese, use the passive voice more often than active voice

Passive:  The mouse was eaten by the cat.   

Active:  The cat ate the mouse.   

Passive:  Livelier sentences will be written by you. 

Active:  You will write livelier sentences. 

Passive:  Water is drunk by everybody. 

Active:  Everybody drinks water. 

Ways to change from passive to active.

1.  Put the Actor (Doer) Before the Verb. 

This:  The handlers must have broken the part. 

Not:  The part must have been broken by the handlers. 

2.  Drop Part of the Verb. 

This:  The results are in the attachment. 

Not:  The results are listed in the attachment. 

3.  Change the Verb. 

This:  The replacement has not arrived yet. 

Not:  The replacement has not been received yet.

Lesson Two

How to find stories

Watch the news. Stories that make the news also make good stories for articles, short stories, non-fiction books, and novels. While watching the news one night, I saw a story about a new sugar substitute coming on the market. When I interviewed the scientist making it, he showed me a new chemical that would help heat homes and roads.

Get out of the house. Go to places where events take place and look for what’s unusual or interesting. I went to one event where I saw a marine handcuffed to a statue of a knight. Turns out it was the unit’s mascot and there was an interesting article is writing about the history of this mascot. 

Surf the internet. There are many stories and many of them have back stories. I found the inspiration for my novel Cold Case Leads to Hot Press for a story about a Jane Doe murder victim identified after 34 years.

Watch People. Watch people in public places and notice their behavior. Make up stories for why they do what they do. This may lead you to an idea for an article or a story. A woman returns a pair of men’s shoes and starts crying. Why?

Who do you know? Often people in our own lives have interesting stories. You may need to take some artistic license with the article or story (change the name), but you have a story. My grandparents have a very interesting story of how they met, fell in love, and got married. It’s the back story for an upcoming novel.

Organizing Ideas

Take notes during research. Will not use all of your notes, but the more you have, the easier it is to write.

Focus—easier to write about skin diseases on elephants than to write about elephants

Single idea, opinion, or impression. Example: description—if it’s nice, don’t write negative things.

Easier to be negative than positive—remember why you are writing the document.

Examples are great ways to show what you mean. Many times it’s hard to explain, but easy to show.

Use facts to support your opinions.

Six “wh” questions—who, what, when, where, why, and how




Introduction—why this topic and why it is important

Point One

      Fact One

      Fact Two

      Fact Three

Point Two

      Fact One

      Fact Two

      Fact Three

Point Three

      Fact One

      Fact Two

      Fact Three

Conclusion—restate topic and expansion (how this topic applies to other situations)

Linear or Step-by Step

Often used in narratives and processes, such as recipes

Introduction—why use this process, recipe, tell this story (note to self, using examples in teaching classes such as the Carroll Doctrine for searching cars without a warrant)

Paragraph One

      How to start

Paragraph Two

      What is the next step or event

Paragraph Three

      Cautions or risks in the process, or next part of the event


      What to do with the finish product or what were the effects of the story

Cloud or Bubble Outline

Combination of Cloud and Linear

Tree method

How to use Writer’s Market

First, use an up-to-date edition of Writer’s Market.

(Handouts for class)

The first part tells you how to use the book.

The sections “Finding Work” and “Managing Work” tell you all about the industry and how to navigate it.

The next part focuses on the markets, finding literary agents, book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals, and contests & awards.

The next section is “Resources,” which provide information on professional organizations and a glossary of the terms used in the industry.

The final section includes indexes to help you find a specific market or agency quickly.

NOTE:  Writing magazines, such as Poets & Writers, are a good source of finding contests, conferences, and writing markets.

Writing Description

The Senses:  sight, smell, sound, taste, touch, & emotion, sixth sense (something is not right), intuition, déjà vu, actions

I use a layer approach. I write what I see, then what I hear, then what I smell, etc.

Recommend avoiding too much detail. Let the reader fill it in. Helps the reader to identify with the story.

Use one feeling, is it good or bad, do you like the place or not.

Technical description uses concrete modifiers instead of vague ones. Example:  It is a seven-millimeter incision instead a small cut. If both people held their breath, they would fit in the car instead of it was a small car.


Upon entering the restaurant, one was greeted by three things: a small wooden bench with enough room for two people, a foyer a little larger than a welcome mat, and a friendly worker behind a cash register demanding your order. If one should hesitate, the worker immediately hands the person a menu and smiles while fidgeting behind the counter. After placing an order, one moves into the restaurant.

To the left is a small bar with enough room for five people. The back of the bar hides the kitchen filled with loud conversations and clanging plates. To the right are several tables, each capable of seating four individuals. Most of them are full, so one must wait until a group finishes and leaves. It’s recommended one also waits for the waitress to clean the table.

Once seated, one realizes having a conversation above the din in the crowded dinning room is a challenge of speaking loud enough to be heard and yet soft enough not to attract the attention of everyone in the room as well as any police officers cruising by. Because of the wait for the table, once customers are seated, their food quickly arrives. The food is quite good, which encourages patrons to quickly finish their meals.

In short, this restaurant is a small, crowded, noisy, and a great place to eat; but not a great place for a first date.

Word count: 235 words

Lesson Three

Online Resources

Tongue and Quill ; I don’t see any real advantage to this over what is normally on MicroSoft Word.

Purdue Online Writing Lab (Purdue OWL)

            Great for listing attribution.

Lumen Learning


Purpose of narratives

            Narratives tell stories, usually to illustrate a point or give an example. Many times, there is a moral or realization to the story, such as accomplishing a task which gives you insight into life situations. There are times when stories are told for simple entertainment.

            Another type of narratives are processes, such as recipes. Directions to a specific location is another kind of narrative. (exercise—how to get to the classroom from the parking lot) For these kinds of narratives, remember to include warnings of problems and how to solve them.

Narratives are often used in research and technical reports, tell the process of the research and the results along the way. (Example—first we tested for this, then we tested for that. Because of the results, we did another test focusing on another issue.)

Structure of narratives

            Transitional words:  after/afterwards, as soon as, at last, before, currently, during, eventually meanwhile, next, now, then, since, soon, finally, later, still, until, when/whenever, while, first, second, third

            Chronological events & back story: Leon Uris does this very well. He starts with an event and later fills in the back story of the main characters’ lives.

Components of narratives

            Plot, characters, conflict, theme

     First person vs. third person

Use description to tell a story—must have a point for using the description

NEVER, I repeat NEVER, plagiarize. Never take credit for someone else’s work.

Attribution—where did you get your facts.

Example: An article by John Thomas Didymus in The Digital Journal, posted March 2, 2013, an article in The New York Times cited research completed by historians that cataloged more than 42,000 interment facilities throughout Nazi-controlled Europe. These included 30,000 slave labor camps, 1,150 ghettos, 980 concentration camps, 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps, 500 brothels filled with sex slaves, and thousands of other camps used to euthanize the elderly and infirm.

If you are responsible for a mistake, own up to it.

Take notes during research. Will not use all of your notes, but the more you have, the easier it is to write.

Focus—easier to write about skin diseases on elephants than to write about elephants

Six “wh” questions—who, what, when, where, why, and how. When writing a narrative, be sure to answer all of the questions needed.

Primary Source

Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945; main editor—Geoffrey Megargee

Publisher: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; 2013, accessed 10 Feb 22.

Secondary Source

The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking, by Eric Lightblau

Publisher: New York Times; 1 March 2013

Tertiary Source

Holocaust ghettos and camps now estimated at over 42,000; by John Thomas Didymus

Publisher: Digital Journal; 2 March 2013, accessed 5 Apr 19

Quaternary Source

Mark Zeid in class

Undocumented source: read it on the internet, heard it from someone.

What is the difference between the mean in statistics and the average in mathematics?

What is the mode? The medium? A standard deviation?

In statistics, the 68–95–99.7 rule, also known as the empirical rule, is a shorthand used to remember the percentage of values that lie within an interval estimate in a normal distribution: 68%, 95%, and 99.7% of the values lie within one, two, and three standard deviations of the mean, respectively.

34.1% / 13.6% / 2.1%

Definition—exactly what do you mean by the terms used in the report

Accuracy/consistency—how often do you get the same results

Parameters/restrictions—what qualifies for consideration in the report

Method—how was it done

Evaluation—what do the results mean

Application—how will the research help or be used

Baby Trophy

Marines run. From the moment we are told to get off the bus and get on the yellow footprints welcoming us to Marine Corps Boot Camp, we run. It starts with running everywhere for the 13 weeks of boot camp. Then it continues through our advance training. But it doesn’t end there. Every three to six months, we need to take a physical fitness test, which includes running three miles in less than 28 minutes. Of course, throughout our time on active duty, we train for the physical fitness test, as well as for our job specialties in the military. As a military police officer, I often had to run to chase down criminals.

For Marines stationed in Hawaii, it’s a runners’ paradise. There are runs and races every weekend. For example, the Honolulu Marathon is famous for encouraging all participants. Along all 26 miles, spectators line the course passing out water and supporting the runners.

Another famous run is the Perimeter Island Relay. For this race, seven-person teams run around the 140-mile perimeter of the island of Ohau. There are 45 legs, averaging three miles. Each person runs six or seven legs. The race starts the on Saturday night, with staggered times, depending on when the team expects to complete the race. The goal is to have all the teams finish up Sunday afternoon.

Our team was made up of seven Marines with the goal of finishing, nothing more. We knew we weren’t the fastest team, but we were looking forward to the challenge. We did complete the race, coming in 29th place out of about 50 teams. Still, we were rather proud of our accomplishment.

Now, of course, there is a girl, a beautiful woman from Asia named Rita. She was intelligent, sexy, charming and the kind of woman that any man would fall for, myself included.

Three weeks after the race, there was an awards ceremony. It turns out the top three teams got large trophies, but every team completing the race got participating trophies, which were much, much smaller. I was the person from our team selected to attend the ceremony and pick up our prizes.

On the way back, I stopped where Rita worked. I proudly displayed my trophy. Rita took one look at it, smiled, and said, “How cute, a baby trophy.”

Lesson Four

Character Development

This week’s lesson uses handouts. I got my information from the NaNoWriMo website: Dashboard | NaNoWriMo .  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November when the organization encourages writers to develop the habit of writing on a regular basis, usually every day. The goal is to complete a novel or at least 50,000 words during the month of November. However, the site offers writing workshops and writing tips throughout the year. I have found it to be an excellent resource. 

Because this information may be covered under copyright laws, I will not post it on my website. I will state that I found this website to one of the most useful for fiction writers, especially with developing characters. However, here are two of the NaNoWriMo URLs for developing characters.

National Novel Writing Month — 51 Questions You’ve (Probably) Never Asked About Your Characters (

NaNo Prep 101 – Week 2 – Character Questionnaire – Google Docs

    What you do need to remember about describing characters.

Not only do you need to describe your main characters: hero, villain, victim, etc. you need to remember other characters play an important role in your story.

There will be supporting characters who either help or hinder the main characters in their quest or adventure. For example, there may be a person who provides clues or assistance. There may be a person who hinders or blocks the main characters’ progress. There may be characters that serve as red herrings, taking the main characters in the wrong direction.

Description includes not only the physical appearance of the person, but the person’s personality, the person’s actions, the person’s special skills (if any), and the person’s role.

Lesson Five

Comparison and Contrast

Comparison and Contrast. Feature by feature, subject by subject

Feature by Feature

Introduction—why are you comparing these things.

Feature one—how are they similar and how are they different

Feature two—how are they similar and how are they different

Feature three—how are they similar and how are they different

Conclusion—restate the reason for comparing these things and the main idea you want the audience to know

Subject by Subject

Introduction—why are you comparing these things

Subject one—list features of the subject

Subject two—list features of the subject

Conclusion—restate the reason for comparing these things and the main idea you want to the audience to know, usually how they are different or how they are similar

Ideas for comparison and contrast?

Two commercial products: computers, cars, dog food, etc.

Two ways to get somewhere: one is quicker, the other is easier to follow

Two ways to do something: one is cheaper, the other is better

Two people who have the same role in history or society: presidents, actors, etc.

Two similar restaurants: McDonalds to Burger King, not to the Four Seasons

Two commercial services: car rentals, airlines, etc.

Two similar stores such as Sam’s Club and Costo, Winn Dixie and Publix

Comparative and superlative adjectives.

Comparative adjectives—”er” and “more/less”

bigger, shorter longer, heavier, lighter, darker, easier, harder, softer, etc

more/less–more comfortable, less convenient, more difficult, less expensive, etc.

Superlative adjectives—”est” and “most/least”

biggest, shortest, longest, lightest, darkest, etc.

most comfortable, least convenient, most difficult, least expensive, etc.

Parallelism in comparison and contrast.

NP—Charles Dickens was a British author, while John Steinbeck wrote in America.

P—Charles Dickens was a British author, while John Steinbeck was an American one.

NP—Susan is as likely to start running as she is to swim.

P—Susan is as likely to start running as she is to start swimming.


“Fewer” vs. “Less”

Fewer is used when items can be counted, such as apples and books. Less is used with singular mass nouns, things that cannot be counted, such as hair and sugar. One easy way to remember is fewer is usually used with nouns that have a plural form by adding “s” or changing letters in the word.

Incorrect: Because I had fewer money, I bought less snacks for the trip.

Correct: Because I had less money, I bought fewer snacks for the trip.

Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns

The angry, perspiring judge scowled at the balding and nervous witness.

Idiomatic—adjectives follow a certain order or they don’t sound right.

The first American satellite, not the American first satellite. (America’s first satellite)

In most cases when multiple adjectives are used, their order is as follows: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose – and then the noun they modify. They’re your “nice big old misshapen brown Italian leather hiking boots.” Try it out of order and see how strange it sounds. 

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs

The reporter passionately and repeatedly defended the integrity of her story.

Passionately and repeatedly, the reporter defended the integrity of her story.

The reporter defended the integrity of her story passionately and repeatedly.

  • Note:  Adverbs usually can be placed at different locations within a sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Misplaced modifiers are when the modifying words or phrase hooks up with the wrong word or phrase, sometimes with a comic effect.

Incorrect:  Carved from solid oak, the angry mob could not break down the door.

Correct:  The angry mob could not break down the door carved from solid oak.

Dangling modifiers don’t connect to a word of phrase in the sentence.

Incorrect:  Before sending out the invitations, a hall for the wedding has to be found.

Correct:  Before sending out the invitations, the couple will have to find a hall for the wedding.


Use specific details

Adjectives for nouns

Adverbs for verbs (adjectives and adverbs)

Nouns as modifiers—the Ford pickup truck, the student participants, the cat toy

Dangling modifiers—Before placing the job announcement, the job qualifications need to be defined.

Correction—Before placing the job announcement, management needs to define the job qualifications.

Danglin modifiers—Upon arriving home, the door was unlocked.

Correction—Upon arriving home, the family found the door unlocked.

Misplaced modifiers—Making false promises and statements, fewer voters are trusting politicians.

Correction—Making false promises and statements, politicians have a harder time gaining voters’ trust.

Misplaced modifiers—The church presents a sermon on How to Get to Heaven at nine o’clock.

Correction—The church presents a sermon at nine o’clock on How to Get to Heaven.

Tables are for eating customers only

I saw a locomotive sitting in my window.


Inclusion doesn’t mean every single minority or ethnic group MUST be included. Focus on what you know. If you want to include other minorities or ethnic groups, talk to members of that group.

Unless needed for the story, avoid hateful language. But do not be afraid to include derogatory terms.

Gender Neutral Terms

Bad idea—it makes it harder for the reader to understand who is talking and who is doing what.

Lesson 6—Persuasion

Example:  What is “woke”?

Define it (subconscious discrimination), qualify my idea of it, give an example, state why I think it’s important and what we should do.

Point out the arguments of the “race card”, “playing the victim”, and “blaming white society.”

Again, focus on how being woke affects me and how I deal with people of color.


Example—kinds of mail

Make a list

Group items in the list into categories

Other examples

Pet owners

Car drivers

News stories

Types of desserts

Types of fruits

Types of vegetables

Homeless people

Persuasion or argument essays

Difference between genuine arguments and other kinds of disagreement.

People might reasonably disagree about it.

There are reasonable grounds for supporting one viewpoint over another.

There are reasonable grounds for supporting your viewpoint.

An argument is supported by reasons and evidence.

Beware of arguments based on unstated beliefs or ideas.

Many arguments use qualifying statements that clarifies limited circumstances for the argument.

How to write a persuasion paper?

Clarify you position.

Gather reasons and evidence to support your position.

Evaluate your evidence.

      Timeliness of your information.

      Comprehensiveness of your reasons and evidence. Do you have enough?

      Credibility of your evidence.

Identify the beliefs that underlie your argument. Will readers accept them?

Draw on shared beliefs and values.

Present opposing viewpoints and evidence.

      Don’t oversimplify.

      Don’t use hostile language.

Consider refuting an opposing argument.

      Question the claim.

      Question the evidence.

      Question the beliefs, values, and assumptions.

Avoid arguments to the person—don’t attack the person. Focus on actions.

Avoid generalizations.

Avoid false analogies—false comparisons.

Pronoun reference

Singular antecedent, singular pronoun (woman—she)

Plural antecedent, plural pronoun (women—they)

Gender; male or female antecedent, male or female pronoun

Gender neutral antecedent, gender neutral pronoun

Vague pronoun reference is when we do not know exactly which antecedent the pronoun is referring to.

Example:  Susan was talking to Elizabeth in her car. (Whose car? Susan’s or Elizabeth’s?)

Correction:  Susan was in her car when she was talking to Elizabeth. Or:  Susan was talking to Elizabeth while Elizabeth was in her car.

Issues with this, that, which, and it.

            Usually, will need to state what each of these pronouns mean in a revised sentence.

Example:  I had a chance to buy a car on eBay, but something bothered me about it. (What’s it?)

Correction:  I had a chance to buy a car on eBay, but something bothered me about the car. Or: I had a chance to buy a car on eBay, but something bothered me about buying a car on eBay.

Pronoun agreement

Making sure the pronoun agrees in number and gender with the antecedent.

Example:  A typical person buys their car from auto dealers.

Correction:  Typically, people buy their cars from auto dealers.

Example:  Everyone likes their coffee hot.

Correction:  Everyone likes his or her coffee hot.

Indefinite pronouns—singular

Anybody, anyone, anything, each, everybody, everyone, everything, nobody, no one, nothing, somebody, someone, something

Variable pronouns—singular or plural (includes collective nouns)

All, any, either, more, most, neither, none, some

Plural pronouns

Few, many, several